Today’s Wall Street Journal has a nice short piece juxtaposing the reaction to swine flu and to antibiotic resistance. It begins as follows:
In March of this year an epidemic of H1N1 influenza virus, otherwise known as swine flu, began in Mexico. It spread to the United States within weeks and has since affected over 100 countries. Between the start of the outbreak and the end of July, a total of 1,154 people worldwide had died of the virus, about one-third of them in the U.S.
The World Health Organization and other public-health agencies have responded to the epidemic with appropriate urgency. International organizations have disseminated information and guidelines and coordinated with public authorities across the globe to ensure an effective response. The pharmaceutical industry is developing antiviral agents and vaccines and producing them on a mass scale.
The U.S. also has responded rapidly and forcefully. Just two weeks after the report of the first case on American soil, President Barack Obama asked Congress to allocate $1.5 billion to fight the virus.
Compare this response to the scant media and political attention that have been given to several silent but no less deadly outbreaks of disease in recent years caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Most such outbreaks are treated as the poor stepsisters of pandemic influenza, even while they have killed far more people than swine flu over the same period.
Per my previous post, I’ve got a new article on the problem of antimicrobial resistance, which is currently out at the law reviews. One of them rejected it in 5 hours, which is a new record for me. My coauthor and I are debating whether this is an example of market efficiency, rational ignorance, or satisficing.
The previous post was headed “Only Two Things Scare Me.” Most commentators got the reference to Austin Powers, but several inquired what the other thing was. I will reveal that after the article is accepted.